Many couples rely on two incomes, so knowing how soon your spouse may work, should she or he want to, or need to, is a critical part of your financial planning.
So lets start with where you are. You found someone from outside the USA. You fell in love. You got engaged. You applied for the K1 Fiancee visa, and now at long last, your fiancee has arrived to the USA.
After arrival, you two have 90 days to get married.
And you get married.
So now you have a foreign born spouse, who has a visa that is expiring soon, unless you take action, should leave the USA and return to home country.
Of course, the action that you must take, is to apply to USCIS to obtain permission for your new spouse to become a permanent resident.
This is called adjustment of status. Your spouse will be “adjusting” or “changing” from an alien who was allowed to stay just 90 days, to a Lawful Permanent resident, who can stay in USA indefinitely. When your spouse gets approved, that is shown by the id card, green card that she or he is given.
As a permanent resident, your spouse can live in the USA, can work, and can travel in and out of the USA. Basically she or he can do anything that you as a US citizen can do, except vote.
But, what is your spouse allowed to do, between the time the application for adjustment of status is submitted, and the green card is granted?
Well officially, if having only applied for the green card, your spouse is only allowed to live in the USA while the application is pending. Work, or travel are off of the table.
Under President Trump it currently takes quite a long time to be approved for permanent residency and get the green card. Currently this is taking 12 to 18 months on average.
US immigration knows that while that may be a reasonable enough time to wait for final permission to live in the USA, in the meantime you and your spouse might need to support yourselfs by working, by earning a living, and many couples can not afford to live on only a single income.
So what can be done is, instead of submitting a single application for adjustment of status, one can also send in a second application at the same time, this one is called “Application for Employment Authorization”
The bad news is it is an application. The good news is, if you apply for Employment Authorization at the same time you apply for Adjustment of Status, USCIS waives the filing fee. And here at VisaCoach we don’t charge extra either. We include the application for Employment Authorization free of charge when working on your Adjustment of Status case.
Unfortunately due to the slow downs at USCIS, work authorization, which used to take about 3 months, now is currently taking about six months to process.
And while processing is underway your spouse may not work.
So timing wise, you can probably expect your spouse to have to wait about 8 months from original arrival, until work authorization is granted.
This normally breaks down to about a month to get to the altar, then a further month to put together the documents and and evidences is needed for a successful adjustment of status application.
Then submitting both adjustment of status application and work authorization applications at the same time. Work authorization should come out in about 6 months, the actual green card to follow much later.
Here at VisaCoach I stress the importance of preparing a thorough Front Loaded application, that answers all the questions immigration will have. By taking the time to do this correctly and collect all the needed evidences, the case gets to approval the fastest and smoothest that it can. So for most of my K1 Fiance visa clients, we normally start working on their adjustment of status and work authorization applications even before the wedding, so that as soon as possible we can submit an application that meets VisaCoach’s high standards, while minimizing the time your spouse must wait to start work.
This time can be used to learn your favorite recipes, catch up on reading, and even study for board certifications.
By Fred Wahl